December 14, 2006

How Many Troops?

Dave Johnson asks when you agree that we should send more troops to Iraq, the real question is how many troops need to be added if that is the right route to go. I provided this answer in his comments:

Back in the days when people thought the aftermath would be a simple "keep order" for a country that had been traumatized by the decades under Saddam, the number of troops (peace keepers) estimated to be needed by knowledgeable people was set at 400,000 to 500,000 for the estimated 24 Million Iraqs. (Or approximately 1 peacekeeper for every 48-60 people.)

Today, we need to adjust that number for the current population, 22 Million (adjusting for the 1.5 million who have fled the country and the approximately 500,000 people dead which I recognize is very likely an undercount) and the fact that there is no peace to keep.

The next question is how many people (peace makers) does it take to quell genocidal violence once it's started especially if your goal is to minimize the deaths of the innocent people who are caught in the sectarian warfare which means that bombs and bullets must be discouraged? Let's suppose minimizing any more deaths of Iraqis would be one of the requirements of "victory for the Iraqis". Then I'd assume the ratio would be more like 15-30 Iraqis per peace maker.

In my scenario, the requirements would be to separate the combatants and provide enough protection for the innocent Iraqis so they no longer die everyday in Iraq. BTW I assume that women and children under 12 would not need extra peace makers because they would not be part of the radicalized Iraqis who need to be separated to stop the violence. If that assumption was wrong, we'd need even more peace makers to support the goal.

So by my books that means we'd need to have some 733,000 to 1,467,000 troops (peace makers) to quell the violence in a way that minimizes the deaths of both the Iraqis and our soldiers. And once the violence is quelled, we still would face years of working with the doubly traumitized Iraqis so they can build enough trust of each other to operate as a nation.

Note: In my scenario, overwhelming force means lots of human beings (not bombs) stepping in to stop the killings and making it worth the while for the various sides to come to the negotiation table because they will no longer be able to use violence to win a bigger share.

My other assumption is that the peace makers would put the welfare of the Iraqis (all Iraqis) in the highest category so they would earn the trust and buyin that would make it possible to really stop the violence and build a real country.

Finally, the pool for peace makers can be broader than just the US -- the key point is earning trust because the stated goal (stopping the violence, helping the Iraqis get past their own vicious cycle of violence) was actually the same as the actual goal.

And by the way, I agree with John Emerson, unfortunately, his scenario is all too plausible today.

Posted by Mary at December 14, 2006 02:05 AM | Iraq | Technorati links |